On Oct. 24, the Board of Aldermen’s Confirmation of Appointment’s Committee met to approve Mayor Joe Curtatone’s appointments and reappointments to city commissions. Of the 48 commissioners that came to the committee, 47 were approved. Those 47 were then all confirmed by the Board of Aldermen the next night.
Barry Rafkind, a five-year member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, was the only commissioner held in committee and not approved immediately. Rafkind has been at odds with the mayor in the past, having frequently criticized the adequacy of the City’s transparency initiatives. Most recently, Rafkind called into question City Hall’s criticism of the work of disability activist Eileen Feldman in a letter to the Somerville Journal last spring.
Rafkind also attempted earlier this year to have the HRC bring in City officials to explain the Feldman criticism. But the City’s legal department began shutting down meetings because it said the committee did not have enough members to reach a quorum.
Mayoral spokesman Tom Champion said Curtatone had done his part to keep Rafkind on the commission.
“His name was submitted by the Mayor for reappointment. The Board (of Aldermen) has not acted on it,” Champion said. “I cannot speak for the board.”
Rafkind said he had never previously been re-appointed to the commission after his first appointment in 2007 to a three-year term. City bylaws say that after a term expires, commissioners serve at the pleasure of the mayor until they are replaced. Rafkind said he is curious why his name was submitted for approval this particular year.
“The mayor has been willing to submit name for reappointment,” he said. “But that may not be a good faith action.”
But Champion said the move was procedural.
The mayor “wanted to have all appointments as up-to-date as possible,” he said. In an email, Champion explained that the mayor’s office sent letters to every Board or Commission member whose appointment had expired or was about to expire in an attempt to bring all appointments up to date. Curtatone submitted three of the five members of the Human Rights Commission – John Robinson, Ashraf Hegazy and Rafkind – for reappointment. Of the 48 commissioners the aldermanic committee voted on, 46 were reappointments.
Alderman Bruce Desmond, who chairs the confirmation committee, said Rafkind’s confirmation was held up by fellow alderman and committee member Robert Trane. Desmond said Trane had questions for Rafkind, and said that Trane had expressed interest in having Rafkind coming to a future meeting of the committee to answer them publicly.
The committee’s next meeting has not yet been scheduled, Desmond said, but will likely occur in January.
Rafkind said he had not heard from Trane either before or since the October meeting. He also said he could not recall having ever interacted with Trane regarding his position on the Human Rights Commission.
Reached by telephone on Friday, Trane asked to be called back again in an hour. He did not answer his phone then, nor did he answer multiple subsequent calls or respond to messages left with those calls.